Near the end of 2011, rumors began circulating about the output of cinema for 2012. The year was to herald some of the most highly anticipated releases in recent memory: The new Quentin Tarantino film, the new James Bond film, the final entry in Chris Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy.

I found myself saying quite often: “The Oscars should be pretty interesting next year.” And I was right; yet who would have known that such an unexpected group of films would have ended up in the run for Best Picture of 2012?

Now, when I say “unexpected,” I certainly do not mean that the films in contention are not worthy. It’s just that there were only two I had heard of the year prior — “Django Unchained” and “Lincoln” — and these new films came as a pleasant surprise. The other seven films nominated for Best Picture are “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Les Misérables,” “Life of Pi,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

All are exceptional films, and if you were to ask me which one I want to win, as a die-hard Tarantino fan-boy, I would of course say “Django Unchained.” But which one I actually think will win is a different story entirely. I believe the award will come down to either “Lincoln” or “Silver Linings Playbook.”

The former is a tale of the 16th president masterfully fighting for one of the most important pieces of legislation in U.S. history, and the latter is a moving story of a bipolar man trying to move on with his life after being released from a mental hospital due to an incident in his past.

I’ve never seen a film quite like Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which is a combination of writing and acting that makes the art of filmmaking look easy. The energy created by simply speaking to one another actually created enough charge to elicit tears running down my face during the film’s climax set at the final vote for the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” didn’t seem interesting to me before I had seen it. The term I had heard to describe it was “love story,” so I imagined only terrible things would follow. However, the movie completely shut me up. I don’t believe I have ever become drawn into a movie’s plot so quickly. Within minutes I had feelings for characters, and made hand gestures and spoke aloud to them in the theater when they were doing something I predicted would only end badly. It was the acting that sold this one for me.

As for which film will win, I cannot pick between these two. I liked “Silver Linings Playbook” more than “Lincoln,” but it would take a lot to prove to me that the former deserves to win over the latter.

For Best Director, the nominees are Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Michael Haneke (“Amour”), Ben Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), and Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”).

As for my choice of the winner, you probably guessed it. Either Spielberg or Russell for their respective films. Except this time, I believe Spielberg has a more solid chance of winning over Russell than in the Best Picture category. For those of you new to the Oscars, Best Picture and Best Director most of the time (but not always) go hand-in-hand, as do the nominations in these two categories.

Acting is always a hard category for predicting the winners. The nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role are: Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”), Hugh Jackman (“Les Misérables”), Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), and Denzel Washington (“Flight”).

For this category, it will either be Day-Lewis for his unforgettable portrayal as our 16th president, or Jackman for his electric performance as the character highly famous from Broadway, Jean Valjean.

Now, many say that Day-Lewis’ role as Lincoln isn’t as worthy of praise as everyone gives it, since we don’t actually know Lincoln’s mannerisms and therefore can’t judge if the performance is an “accurate” one. However, I believe Day-Lewis’ role was a depiction of the president. The critics are right: I did not know Abraham Lincoln, but I feel as though I do now just after a few hours of watching another man dressed as him on screen.

With Jackman, I can barely put into words his performance. Instead of trying to describe the capacity of talent it must take to overcome an accent and not only speak but sing just as one’s character would, I’m going to say it was simply one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, and leave it at that. Jackman is my pick for Best Actor.

For the category of Best Actress in a Leading Role, the nominees are Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”), Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), and Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”). This one is difficult for me, but I would pick Riva for her role as Anne in a French film about the bonds of a many-decades-old marriage being tested after Anne suffers a stroke. The 85-year-old actress more than once wrenched my heart out of place, and in my eyes made “Amour” the spectacle that it really was.

The two supporting performer categories become even harder to predict than those of leading performers, and they are often the most competitive categories. This year’s supporting nominees include a wide array of different actors and acting styles, and these are two of the more interesting categories.

The nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role are Alan Arkin (“Argo”), Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Philip Seymour-Hoffman (“The Master”), Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”) and Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”). In this category of old men, my two picks for the winner are either Tommy Lee Jones in his role as radical Republican Party leader Thaddeus Stevens, or Philip Seymour-Hoffman’s for his role as philosopher Lancaster Dodd in “The Master.” This one again comes down to who I want to win versus who I believe will win. In all likelihood, Tommy Lee Jones will win for his flawless, humorous role as a crotchety old congressman, but Hoffman’s role in “The Master” was like none I’d ever seen. Hoffman was almost a completely different persona from any of his past roles, and he made me want to believe that Phoenix’s character in the film could recover from his traumatic past. He was intelligent, witty, humorous, kind and driven all the same. But with that said, both actors deserve to win.

The nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role are Amy Adams (“The Master”), Anne Hathaway (“Les Misérables”), Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”), Sally Field (“Lincoln”) and Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”). For this category, I see it as a tie between Field for her role as Mary-Todd Lincoln, Adams for her role as Philip Seymour–Hoffman’s wife on “The Master” and Anne Hathaway for her role as caring mother Fantine in “Les Misérables.”

The reason I cannot predict a winner does not lie in the skills of the actresses — all were exceptional in these roles — but because of some outside factors. Sally Field has won two Oscars already, and this is her third nomination, so will she win three Oscars on three nominations? That’s unlikely. On the other hand, Hathaway gave a stellar performance, but was only in her movie for a short time before of her character’s death, so would she really receive an Oscar for such a miniscule performance? I’ll pick Adams to be the winner.

These are my predictions for what is known as “The Big Five” for the 2013 Oscars. Take them as educated guesses, and then come up with your own for Hollywood’s big night next Sunday.

• Alec Regimbal is a senior at West Valley High School and a member of Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students.